Thursday, February 27, 2014

End of February

Well, I took a brief hiatus from blog writing due to the holidays, but now that my time in Russia is winding down, I think it’s about time for some updates! I returned to Dmitrov shortly after the New Year, with a new foreign teammate named Brittany. She is Canadian and played at Providence College and then for the Boston Blades. We had actually never met before the 9 hour plane ride to Moscow together. What better way to get to know each other right? Wrong.. Brittany was nice enough to change seats with a random Russian man who wanted to sit with his friend, so she was stuck in a middle seat between a few people she didn’t know. What a trip that must have been. I was asleep in the comfy window seat. Sorry Britt.
Shortly after we returned to Dmitrov, we started right in with practices, with only 5 days or so until big games against the SKIF 1 team that defeated us a couple months earlier. Unfortunately for me, a few days before we were schedule to play SKIF, I fell in practice during a 1v1 battle drill, hit the back of my head on the ice, and got a pretty good concussion. I spent the next couple days in bed, trying to rest, which only added to the jet lag and fatigue from the concussion. Needless to say, I was a wreck. Couldn’t stand up or walk around without feeling dizzy, couldn’t sleep at night because my body was so confused with the time difference. Anyhow, after a few days in bed, I needed to get out so I walked across the street to the rink and forced myself to sit through the two tough games against SKIF. It was extremely hard for me to sit there and watch my team play (on the one hand because it made me really dizzy) but also because I knew these were games we had to win, and I couldn’t contribute. It was definitely tough, but luckily, my team pulled through in regulation time during the first game, and in a nail biting, pull your hair out, shootout the second game. I was thrilled that my team had won, but I knew that I needed to get some treatment and rest for my concussion. After making sure it was safe for me to fly, I headed home about mid January to see my doctor in the states, and make sure I would be back and ready to play for the Euro Cup in top shape, in March.
After a couple weeks at home, seeing my doctor, and following a treatment plan, I was ready to get back on the ice and to return to Russia. I played some pick up hockey with a group of guys at home that I grew up playing the game with, and felt great. This was the best I had felt in weeks and was really excited to be back on the ice and to be returning to my team in a short period of time.

During all of this time at home, some of my amazing and incredibly talented teammates represented their country in the Olympics for the Russian National Women’s Hockey Team. So obviously, I watched every game they played, which were (lucky for me) no earlier than 730 am. It was really cool to watch my teammates and friends compete in their home country in front of all their fans. They played three extremely good games in the preliminary rounds, winning all three, but unfortunately lost in the quarterfinal game against Switzerland. Throughout the games, my teammate Iya was updating me on the happenings around the Olympic village and was also nice enough to skype me into the opening ceremonies! She also sent me pictures of her with some of my favorite hockey players.. Sidney Crosby.. Patrick Kane.. and even Dan Bylsma, the coach of my favorite NHL Team, The Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m still coping with the jealousy.

As a member of the US National for the last 3 and a half years, I obviously was following some of my good friends and former teammates on their journey throughout the Olympics and had to ultimately root for my home country, but I was incredibly proud of the way my Russian teammates played and represented their country. Women’s hockey in Russia still is not developed even close to that of women’s hockey in North America as far as numbers of registered female players. There are only around 550 registered female hockey players in all of Russia. However, I think this will drastically improve in the years post-Sochi. I was told that for the first time ever, women’s hockey was broadcasted on the first Federal channel in Russia, which is a huge accomplishment for the sport. Many people that normally wouldn’t get to see women play the sport of hockey, became fans, and I think this is something that will really help Russia in the next 10 years as more and more girls will want to play the sport.

Upon returning to Dmitrov a week or so ago, I jumped right back into practices and workouts and have been feeling symptom –free which is awesome. Shortly after I came back, I got the chance to visit a beautiful place called Sergiyev Posad, which is about an hour from Dmitrov. Sergiyev Posad is the

Russian Orthodox equivalent of the Vatican and has dozens of beautiful, magnificent churches and medieval buildings. Brittany and I took the short trip to see the buildings with one of our teammates who doesn’t speak much English. Her parents drove us there, who spoke no English. So that was quite an experience in itself but they were incredibly nice and laughed at us when we put on our seatbelts in the backseat (apparently no one does that here even though the driving is scarier and Boston, Montreal, and NYC combined).  My favorite part of the trip was going inside one of the churches that was literally lined wall to wall, floor to ceiling with gold. This was one of the few places that we were not allowed to take pictures, but imagine the most gold you could ever put into one place, and that was it. It was beautiful. Like a typical North American, I was a little surprised by what we found when we went to use the public bathroom.. you'll see what I mean.

Something else that has shocked me since I’ve been back is that it has actually been sunny for about 3 or 4 days in a row. This never happens in Dmitrov. Usually it’s sunny one day out of 7 if you’re lucky. We have really been taking advantage of being able to be outside and get some sun, including an awesome sunset snowboard trip to a hill about 30 minutes outside of the city. Now.. I haven’t snowboarded since I was probably 12 years old, and I was no Sean White, I probably only went three times when I was that age. But it was a beautiful evening and a few of us were sitting outside and decided.. why not. Two of my teammates are pretty good and have snowboarded for multiple years. Brittany, Iya, and I, had never done it, or had only done it maybe once. We knew it would be pretty hilarious. News flash. I’m still no Sean White. I made sure that I had a helmet because I knew it wasn’t going to pretty, but after spending the first run pretty much completely on my butt, the second and third runs went a little better. The chair lift? Disaster. They don’t warn you that that’s probably the hardest part of the skiing or snowboarding experience. It was a lot of fun though.

We also had a couple games against Arctic University and we won both pretty decisively; 11-0 and 9-2. These were the first games that the Olympic girls had played since their loss to Switzerland, so I’m sure it was tough for them, but they played really well given the circumstances. After our second game, our roommate Zuza was nice to enough to let Brittany and I tag along with her, her brother and his girlfriend, to our first KHL game in Moscow! I wasn’t sure of what to expect from the game because I had never been but it was a cool experience. The rink was smaller than that of an NHL rink, obviously, but it was pretty packed and incredibly loud. There were cheerleaders, massive flags being waved throughout the entire game, and the fans were constantly cheering and yelling for the home team, Atlant. It was awesome.

Now, we have two more away games next week and then the week after that we leave for Germany and for Euro Cup. I couldn’t be more excited to play in these games and be back in Germany!

Look out for the next blog early next week after Iya, Brittany, and I take a fun weekend trip to Saint Petersburg!!

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